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September 1, 2007

Soft power of India: Dr. Shashi Tharoor

The Nehru Centre on August 17 invited Shashi Tharoor, of the United Nations, Dr Shashi Tharoor to speak on 'Soft Power of India'. Tharoor, an award-winning novelist, columnist and former United Nations undersecretary general, is currently serving as a part-time chairman of the Afras Ventures, a Dubai-based company looking for economic development projects in India's southern state of Kerala. High Commissioner Kamalesh Sharma introduced the eminent speaker among the guests. Guest of honour, Lord Malloch Brown KCMG, Minister for Africa, Asia and the U.N. among others attended the function.

In his lecture Tharoor said: "It is increasingly axiomatic today that the old calculations of "hard power" are no longer sufficient to guide a country's conduct in world affairs.

Our "soft power" - the aspects and products of our society that the world finds attractive - have become much more important. Indian cinema, art, literature, fashion, and cuisine, the values of Ashoka, Akbar and Gandhi, and the pluralism of our civilisation, constitutes our "soft power". As a society with a free press and a thriving mass media, with a people whose creative energies are daily encouraged to express themselves in a variety of appealing ways, India has an extraordinary ability to tell stories that are more persuasive and attractive than those of its rivals. Is this, rather than nuclear weapons, industrial growth or military might, our real global USP? How credible is our soft power in the face of poverty, communal violence, corruption and caste discrimination?"

Tharoor, India's official candidate for the successor to former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006, came second out of seven contenders in the race. Tharoor is the author of nine books, as well as hundreds of articles.

Reinventing Mahatma Gandhi's wheel

The city known for its links to the Father of the Nation is all set to get a landmark associated with him.This time it will be a contemporary and modern one in the form of a 70-foot sculpture depicting the Mahatma's charkha.

This was the design that bagged its creator Nuru Karim the coveted first prize in the 'Notions of a Nation' competition held in Kolkata on the eve of the 61st year of Independence. Organised by Tata Structura and Indian Architects and Builders (IA&B) magazine, the competition had over 110 entries from across the country, each striving to give their interpretation of which architectural symbol best represents contemporary India.

The jury, comprising some of the best names in Indian architecture like BV Doshi, finally zeroed in on Karim's futuristic portrayal of Gandhi's charkha for the prestigious award.

And this design, that is presently in 3-D and a scale model version, will be installed in Pune. "Several places were discussed after the contest and finally the choice narrowed down to Delhi and Pune. Pune then won because of its emerging mega-city status. Also it's an important centre now for design and IT," says Karim.

While the exact site is yet to be determined, there are two locations under consideration, says Sarita Vijayan, editorial coordinator IA&B.

"The place needs to have character and a design connect," she adds. Word has it that INCAT, Tata's sprawling hi-tech design centre fashioned by Charles Correa in Hinjewadi is one of the two possibilities. The sculpture is the product of long research by its creators - Karim and his associates at Void Architects, his firm.

"When the contest was announced we started researching on what could represent modern India most aptly and the charkha caught our imagination. When we looked beyond the physical image of the spinning wheel and into the philosophy behind it, we realised it stood for many things - self-reliance, inner peace, contentment, dignity - and upheld the message that work is indeed worship. Placing all this in the context of the consumerism plaguing society today, we got our symbol," says the 33-year-old architect who did his Masters from the AA School of Architecture in London and trained under Zaha Hadid, before returning to set up his own firm in Mumbai.

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Seminar on nanotechnology

For the first time in India, a convention will be organised on nanotechnology in December 2007 called 'Bangalore Nano 2007' by the State Department of IT, Biotechnology and Science and Technology. To help boost research and development in nanotechnology, the Union Budget has also allocated around Rs. 10 billion. A research centre would be established in Bangalore with a central government assistance of Rs. 1 billion.

The convention whose theme centres on "bridging the research-industry gap in nano-technology", would provide a meeting ground for researchers, entrepreneurs and industrialists. The delegates will focus on the integrated role of technology, application and market.

The initiative comes in view of the global trade potential of nano technology - pegged at around $ 3 trillion in the next 10 years.

Uranium in Ladakh

Scientists have for the first time found uranium in "exceptionally high concentration" in Ladakh, the icy Himalayan region in Jammu and Kashmir that has strategic significance for India. Samples of rocks analysed in a German laboratory have revealed uranium content to be as high as 5.36 percent compared to around 0.1 percent or less in ores present elsewhere in the country. India badly needs uranium to fuel its nuclear power plants and the proposed India-U.S. nuclear deal is all about importing it. The Ladakh find may cheer those opposed to the deal even though detailed exploration and mining could take several years.

The Ladakh block lies between the Indian plate in the south and the Asian plate in the north and is bounded by the Indus and the Shyok suture zones. A collision between the two plates 50-60 million years ago formed the Himalayas.

The earth's crust that got crushed and subsequently melted during collision pierced the surface, cooled and solidified becoming magmatic rocks dotting what geologists call the Ladakh 'batholith'. It is in these rocks that uranium is found.

"The presently recorded uranium rich zircons from young magmatic intrusions of the Shyok suture zone and associated sequences is the first record from these remote regions," said Rajeev Upadhyay, a geologist at Kumaon University in Nainital.

"In geological terms, these uranium-bearing magmatic rocks exposed in Ladakh are very young (between 100 million and 25 million years ago)," he said.

Other uranium rich rocks in India such as those in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan are very old geological terrains known as the Precambrian (2,500-3,000 million years old), he said.

For his study, reported in the journal Current Science, Upadhyay took samples from thick exposed granite from a place north of Udmaru village in Leh district.

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